Why plain packaging must standardise sticks too

20 April 2016

Plain packaging regulations should not only focus on prominent warnings on the pack but must also standardise the cigarette sticks such as size, tow and colour. Tobacco companies continue to redesign sticks to make them more appealing to smokers.


Solvay Rhodia Coloured Tow is developing coloured cigarette tow to invigorate new appeal to smokers.

According to Solvay, which conducted consumer surveys, including on Asian smokers on the coloured filters, the test revealed Asian consumers were willing to embrace new filter design. Young women particularly, aged 25 or less, were most interested and fascinated by coloured filters. The consumers in the survey favoured three colours: green for menthol, blue for light, and black for confidence and sophistication. These three colours seem to coincide with the colour scheme consumers associate with the cigarette and pack colours.

According to the survey consumers want colours with a personal meaning and to connect to their cultural background and trends.

The colours represented the following to them: their motivations (social integration and self-assertion); the occasions when they consume cigarettes (clubbing, meeting friends, work, break, etc.); and anticipated personal benefits (personal pleasure, trendiness, individuality, premium quality, belonging, collective entertainment). All of this sounds just like the surveys the tobacco companies conduct to find out more about smoking behaviour.

Cigarettes have been referred to as ‘cancer sticks’ for the disease and death they cause. The tobacco business continues to looks towards how to make the sticks more attractive, colourful and appealing. Standardised packaging or plain packaging will fix this problem.

The bulk of smokers in the ASEAN region smoke regular King size cigarettes: In Malaysia and Philippines nearly all smokers (99.9%) smoke the regular King size cigarettes, Vietnam (99%), Singapore 98.8%, and Thailand (98%). However tobacco companies are marketing slim cigarettes aimed at teenage girls.

In Thailand for example in 2010 – slim cigarette sales was 0%, which increased to 2% in 2014. In Indonesia skinny cigarettes make up 5% of sales. In 2009, slim and super-slim cigarettes sales was 2.5%, but doubled to 5% in 2014. More Indonesian teenage girls are now smoking compared to 2009.

This makes a strong case for standardising the size of the cigarette sticks (King size) to stop the tobacco industry from targeting teenagers with skinny sticks. Singapore and Malaysia, now looking into plain packaging should standardise the appearance of the sticks as part of regulations as Australia has done.

Previous ASEAN Tobacco Watch updates can be found here